Energy-performance standards must be improved

Andy Heath is a senior building surveyor at property services firm Re:volve Estate

Having worked for both major and specialised property firms, on commercial properties of all sizes, the recurring issue of faulty Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) assessments has been impossible to ignore.

“We often work on projects assessed by assessors who have completed only a two-week course”

As building surveyors, a significant part of our work hinges on environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, and specifically EPC ratings, and throughout my career there’s always been a collective sigh among my peers when confronted with inaccurate EPC assessments. 

Despite ongoing updates in standards and legislation, the problem persists. From my own experience, it’s clear there are four key challenges that arise, from inadequate data collection, to a reluctance to embrace technology.

1. Insufficient or lack of data collection

We frequently come across properties of various sizes and ages with incomplete as-built information. Without this, many assessments are conducted based on the assumptions the software  makes. (A variety of software can be used, but the tool the software uses to calculate EPCs in existing buildings is either the Simplified Building Energy Model or Dynamic Simulation Model.)

Even in cases where the complexity of a project clearly calls for level 4 EPC assessors, it’s common to see assessments conducted by level 3 assessors, who make assumptions about the building’s complexity. 

Understanding U-values, which are crucial for EPC assessments, can be especially challenging. Frequently, there’s no available information, and obtaining these readings often requires difficult access points and the use of potentially expensive tests just to obtain this vital piece of information, yet this is often ignored.

Implementing higher data collection standards universally would lead to enhanced industry performance, increased compliance and a raised bar for excellence.

2. Issues with evolving EPC software

As the software carrying out EPCs constantly improves and evolves, it causes huge EPC discrepancies between readings from as little as two years ago in comparison to those generated with the same input data today.

We have seen clients ask about improving their EPC for funding or compliance and, by simply renewing their EPC, the rating has increased without any further testing. 

Ultimately, it’s crucial for EPCs to accurately reflect changes over time. This can be achieved by either speeding up the process of improving EPCs or aligning guidance and regulations for older EPCs with the evolving software.

However, to truly make a difference and ensure reliable results, it is imperative that any regulations are standardised. This would improve EPC assessments, ensuring consistency and accuracy. 

3. Willingness to adopt technology

While strides are being made in the technology available, with many assessors, these updates are being sidelined and ignored.

Especially with older buildings where information isn’t readily available, assessors often rely on inputting the building’s age or construction into the system, resulting in generalised assumptions that lower EPC ratings unnecessarily. 

To ensure thorough data collection and assessments are carried out using technology, I firmly believe it’s essential for the industry to establish strict EPC technology guidelines.

With the use of technology, it will lead to increased compliance with energy regulations and reduce the reliance on assumptions.

4. Level of EPC assessors

I believe I can speak on behalf of my peers when I say that the accreditation required for assessing a building’s energy does not meet the industry’s standards.

We often work on projects that have previously been assessed by EPC assessors who have completed only a brief two-week course, lack adequate qualifications and provide unhelpful assessments.

This presents significant challenges for providing accurate ESG and EPC recommendations, often necessitating a complete overhaul and fresh start.

Improved qualifications for assessors would improve industry standards, and enable assessors to work more efficiently and with better accuracy. 

With higher universal standards we would see improved energy performances with recommendations made from accurate data.  

Precise EPC assessments offer the opportunity to lower operational costs and deliver tangible returns for building owners and tenants. By enforcing changes to legislation and standards for technology, data collection, assessor training and qualifications, we can significantly improve the quality of commercial properties in the UK.

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